The Case of The Lower Case Letter by Jack Delany
In The Case of The Lower Case Letter by Jack Delany we have the theme of control, greed, honesty, murder and commitment. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed detective the reader realises after reading the story that Delany may be exploring the theme of control. Edgar likes to control Edith, particularly how she looks. This may be significant as Edgar may be insecure within himself when it comes to his relationship with Edith. He may think how a man of his scholarly position could marry a good looking woman who has no interest in his work. However as the story continues it becomes clear to the reader that Edith is greedy and is looking for Edgar’s final piece of work so that she can profit from it. This alone is reason enough for Edith to kill Edgar. Though she never admits to the crime. What is also interesting about the story is the fact bat Edith never covers her tracks or at least does not know how to do so. Even in death Edgar is too smart for Edith.
The narrator is also never driven by lust. He finds Edith attractive but he remains focused on the case. Even when he knows Edith is guilty he does not try to blackmail her for his own gain. He remains honest throughout the story. Despite his obvious attraction to Edith. Edith on the other hand may be prone to an affair with the narrator should he help her. Her one desire is to retrieve the coded piece of paper and the reader feels as though she will do anything to find it. It is also clear that Edith by killing Edgar did not love him but rather the puzzles that he wrote. For Edith the driving factor is greed and the possibility of more money than she could ever hope to have. This may be significant as a murder usually has a driving factor and the Edgar’s murder is no different. Though Edgar never mentions as to whether Edith has been unfaithful. Many readers would not be surprised if she had been. If anything Edgar and his work bored Edith but nonetheless she knew that by killing Edgar she could profit from his work.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which may be important. Edith takes the piece of paper from her blouse as though she is carrying a secret. In many ways this acts as foreshadowing to later on in the story when the narrator discovers that Edith has killed Edgar. Suspicions are also raised when Edith tells the narrator that Edgar’s suicide note may hold a clue to where Edgar’s final paper is. This is interesting as Edith is more concerned about Edgar’s last message rather than accepting the suicide note for what it is. Edith’s engagement ring is described as being ‘the size of a peanut M&M. This too is significant as it suggests that Edit is comfortably off and doesn’t necessarily need to be greedy. However greedy she is.
The end of the story is also interesting as everything seems to fit into place for the narrator. He knows that he has gotten the better of Edith and that she was driven by greed. She killed the man who loved her and gave her everything yet she was still not satisfied. She wanted more and thought that by killing Edgar she could get more. If anything Edgar was worth more to Edith when he was dead. Which is a harsh lesson for any man or woman to have to learn. Especially when Edgar was so committed to Edith. He died a pointless and unnecessary death at Edith’s hands. So that Edith could prosper and profit from Edgar’s estate. If anything Edith has shown herself to be a cold character with no scruples. Money being the most important thing in her life. The reader is also left knowing that Edith will be going to prison and will have all the time in the world to think about what she has done. However Edith is self-absorbed and may not necessarily ever accept the blame for Edgar’s death. For her Edgar was a means to an end. The little solace that Edgar’s family have is knowing that Edith will never be released from prison and that she will not be able to harm another person again. As for the narrator he can take pride in the fact that he has solved the case.